CHAPTER THREE

Christine's "tour" of the facility didn't produce much information. Most of the complex consisted of private living quarters for the complex inhabitants. There were also quite a few offices and labs. She occasionally came across the red doors that Jessica had mentioned. After a while her "escorts" stopped following her and walked alongside her.

She also found the library Jessica had mentioned. It was huge compared to some of the libraries she had seen in some communities. There were more people in the library than were in the cafeteria. She browsed the books for a while and even found some she might have been interested in reading.

After a while she returned to her room. When she entered it she found Jessica there. The young girl was holding Christine's sword and was admiring it. As she saw Christine enter the room she immediately laid the sword on the bed. It was obvious she was embarrassed at being caught with it.

"Matron Barrett asked that I come by to see if you needed anything," said Jessica.

"No, I think I'm fine," said Christine. "I even seem to have my own escorts."

"Well, that's for your protection as well as ours," said Jessica. "Some people are very nervous when visitors come here." She looked at the sword lying on the bed. "I'm sorry about that. I've seen them in books but I've never seen one for real before. It looks just like some of the ones in the books in the library."

"It's okay," said Christine. "No harm done. And it may look like those other swords but I guarantee you that you haven't seen one like that before. It's unique."

"Jessica," said a man standing in the doorway to Christine's room. "Your mother was looking for you."

"Okay, daddy," said Jessica. "Christine, if you need anything just let me know. Matron Bennett says to get you whatever you need."

"Okay, Jessica," said Christine as the young girl left the room. "She's a nice girl."

"Sometimes she's a bit too curious," said the man, looking at the sword on Christine's bed. "She really shouldn't have been messing with your stuff."

"It's not a problem," said Christine, noticing the black robe the man was wearing. "So, you're another one of the Triad that Matron Barrett mentioned?"

"Yes, actually," said the man. "I'm Sire Willows. How did you know I was a member of the Triad? Did my daughter tell you?"

"You're dressed the same way," said Christine. "Different from how everyone else is dressed. So, come to check me out?"

"Actually," said Willows, "Trin asked me to come for a visit. I'm a physician. She wanted to make sure you had no medical problems. Wanted me to see if there's anything you might need."

"No, I'm fine," said Christine.

"You said your sword was unique," said Willows, picking up the sword and looking at it. "I must admit I don't see it. Jessica was right it looks like a lot of the swords that are in the books."

"Oh, it's different," said Christine, taking the sword. "Most swords are made of steel. This one is made of something called aggregated diamond nanorods. It was a material that was developed just before the cataclysm. It's harder than even diamond."

"That would make it unique," said Willows. "It would make it nearly unbreakable."

"And it will pierce the hide of the demons," said Christine. "As far as I know it's the only one of its kind. Needless to say I'm rather protective of it."

"I can't say I blame you," said Willows. "Wilson said you were a Ranger. And Trin said you were hunting an Overlord named Pol. I would imagine a sword like that comes in very handy."

"Yeah," said Christine. "After Pol murdered my mother I escaped. I wandered for a while and was finally found by a Ranger who took me in. Taught me the tricks of the trade, so to speak. He also taught me to read and write. He taught me everything I know. After he died I decided to find Pol and pay him back for what he did to my mother and me."

"Revenge is never a good thing," said Willows. "In the end, it can only destroy you."

"I prefer to think of it as justice," said Christine. "Do I have to worry about you preaching to me about the evils of revenge?"

"Not at all," said Willows. "We believe that everyone must follow their own path. I may not agree with your decision but it is your decision to make. So long as it does not endanger the people in this complex you may follow your own path."

"Good," said Christine. "I've heard all the arguments against it. So, you people have been here since the cataclysm?"

"That's right," said Willows. "When the cataclysm occurred our ancestors were protected in this complex. Our records show that they couldn't leave for years. The upheavals continued for months. The air covering much of the earth was very toxic. This complex has its own filtration system which protected them. Once the upheavals ended the Demons came. They felt it best if they remained here. We've been here ever since."

"What exactly did they do here?" Christine asked.

"A variety of things," said Willows. "There was some medical research. They also worked on producing new strains of plants. Plants that were more resistant to disease and pests. It was funded by the military so they also had a military presence. Most of our security are the descendents of those people. Now it's your turn. How long have you been on your own?"

"It seems like forever," said Christine. "Like I said, I escaped after my mother was murdered. I was young. I wasn't much use to the Demons. They prefer adult blood. I found a small hole in the wall where we were kept. I was able to wriggle through and get away."

"And you survived on your own until the Ranger found you," said Willows. "That's pretty impressive. Most children on their own won't survive more than a few days."

"I got lucky," said Christine. "I found an abandoned building I was able to hide in. I survived on roots, berries, small rodents: anything I could find until Hurricane found me."

"Hurricane?" questioned Willows.

"The Ranger who found me," explained Christine. "A lot of Rangers have sort of nicknames. Usually the ones who have become legends. Hurricane was one of the best. The sword was his. After he died I took it. And I've put it to good use since then."

"You said you found a hole in the wall where you were kept," said Willows.

"The Demons don't always just kill humans," said Christine. "Sometimes they take captives. I've seen entire breeding pens. The Demons sometimes breed humans as a constant source for food. They'll also use them for slave labor."

"We've heard of such things," said Willows. "But we've never talked to anyone who had seen them firsthand."

"I have," said Christine. "I've even been able to free some of those people."

"Very commendable," said Willows. "At least revenge isn't the only thing on your mind."

"Justice," corrected Christine. "You seem to have kept your standard of living up okay. Most places I've visited are barely making it even after 300 years."

"We had a lot of advantages they didn't," said Willows. "For one thing the Demons can't get in here. So we don't have to worry about them."

"I noticed the precautions," said Christine. "The dark tunnel leading down here. Demons can't see in the dark. That's why the Demons aren't active at night. And the yellow lights so you can see in the passage. It's also common knowledge that Demons can't see into the yellow spectrum of the light spectrum."

"And we've sealed all entrances into the complex except for the one crossing the underground river," said Willows. "Demons also can't swim."

"What about the Breeds?" Christine asked. "A lot of them can see in the dark as well as any human. And they can also see in yellow light."

"And they are not usually a threat," said Willows. "Most Demon/human hybrids are considerably weaker than their Demon parent. Our security can easily handle any that may wander in here."

"Well, you're right about that," said Christine. "Most Breeds I've encountered have been less than a nuisance."

"Where are you originally from?" Willows asked.

"East of here," said Christine. "There are more Demons out there. That's because there were more humans out there. I saw an old sign once. It said Phila-something."

"Philadelphia," said Willows. "It was a major city before the cataclysm."

"You seem to know a lot about it," said Christine.

"We have some very detailed records from pre-cataclysm days," said Willows. "Including complete maps of what the world used to look like. Of course, those maps are all but useless now. When the upheavals happened most of the landmasses were altered. And, of course, the weather patterns changed."

"So I understand," said Christine. "Do you know what caused the cataclysm? I've found a lot of people but no one seems to know what happened. Just one day the world went to hell."

"I'm afraid not," said Willows. "I'm not sure we'll ever know for sure. Maybe an asteroid struck the earth. There's just no way to know. We do know that it started on what used to be the east coast. It wasn't long after that that the Demons started showing up."

"Yeah," said Christine. "I've always wondered where the Demons came from. I've seen some of the ancient records. I've never seen anything like them in those records. Do you have any idea where they came from?"

"Again, no," said Willows. "Perhaps they're some mutated form of a creature that once inhabited the earth. Our records indicate that there was some strange radiation detected during the cataclysm. We've never been able to identify it. It's possible that the radiation might have caused some previous life form to mutate."

"I don't know," said Christine. "I've seen a lot of people whose ancestors suffered from radiation. It never caused any mutations like those in the Demons."

"Well, it's just a theory," said Willows. "I must say I've enjoyed our chat. The noon meal is being served soon. I do hope you'll join us. Word of your presence has spread throughout the complex. Many people are understandably curious about you."

"Even the ones who might want to hurt me?" questioned Christine.

"I'm afraid my daughter's imagination tends to get the better of her sometimes," said Willows, smiling. "It is true that we've had problems with visitors in the past. But I'm convinced you aren't a threat to our community. I'm sure everyone else will see that, too. I doubt you'll have problems with any of them."

"That's good to know," said Christie. "I'll probably put in an appearance. Wouldn't want to disappoint my adoring fans."

"Yes, well," said Willows smiling. "I must be going. I'll see you at the noon meal then."

After Willows had left the room Christine resheathed her sword. This proved to be a very interesting visit.

Willows walked into a room in the very back of the complex. Matron Barrett was there. So was a black man dressed in a black robe identical to the one that Willows was wearing. As Willows entered the room the other man handed him a drink.

"Well?" questioned Barrett.

"Well, she claims to be a Ranger," said Willows. "I have a tendency to believe her. She claims she was trained by Hurricane."

"I don't think that's possible," said the other man. "Our predecessors records indicate that Hurricane once came here. But that was well over 60 years ago. She's barely 30."

"I suppose, Charles, that it could have been another Ranger using that name," said Barrett.

"We do know so little about Rangers," said the black man. "They are such a secretive breed. I suppose Trin could be right."

"Perhaps, Simon," said Willows. "But she claims to be from the area around what used to be Philadelphia. Which means she's been to the east."

"If she's telling the truth," said Simon.

"I believe she is," said Trin. "If she's really a Ranger we do know they are honest. They have no reason to lie."

"As I said," said Simon. "If she's telling the truth."

"I agree with Trin," said Willows. "Her sword is unusual. It's made of aggregated diamond nanorods. And Wilson told us that she decapitated a Demon with a single blow. It would require that kind of material to accomplish that. Even our normal bullets simply bounce off the hide of a Demon."

"Okay," said Simon. "Let's assume for the moment that she is a Ranger. Do you think she would be willing to help us? There's a great deal we could offer her by way of compensation. I'm sure we can find something that she would consider proper payment."

"I didn't broach the subject," said Willows. "I think it's best if she gets a bit more acclimated to the complex first. Rangers are notorious for being solitary. If we push her too quickly she may dismiss us out of hand. This is the best chance we've had. I don't want to go too quickly."

"Agreed," said Trin. "We'll need to go slowly on this one. You both know what's at stake. We can't afford to make a mistake now."

"I agree," said Simon. "But we can't wait too long. We're still getting intermittent signals. They could stop at any time. Once they do we may lose our chance forever."

"I'll approach her about it when I feel she's ready," said Willows. "Until then we should instruct the others not to say anything."

"A wise precaution," said Trin. "It is nearly time for the noon meal. We should be going. We can continue the discussion later."

Together the three left the room and headed for the cafeteria.